Family proudly walking up to their new Habitat Chicago home
Chicago Star
Why Women Build Matters

Despite the fact that it is harder for women to become homeowners than it is for similarly situated men, single women are currently outpacing single men when it comes to homeownership, both here in Chicago and across the country. Homeownership is not only a powerful wealth-generating tool; it also improves the health, educational, and social outcomes for individuals and their children.

To achieve gender equality and to provide children with futures of opportunity, we must take affordable homeownership seriously. Women Build exists to do just that. It’s not just 550 women coming together to build houses – it’s 550 women coming together to build strength, stability, and equality.

Woman sawing off a piece of siding

Chicago Star
Homeownership Benefits

Let's first talk about stable, quality, and affordable homeownership and why it matters:


>> A home is typically the largest asset a household will have and its equity increases a household's wealth over time. 

>> An affordable mortgage gives households a predictable, controlled amount for their shelter for decades, as opposed to facing the volatility of rent increases that plague quickly-changing city markets.

>> In 2021, the National Association of Realtors estimated the average homeowner's net worth at about $300,000, almost 40 times that of renters' $8,000.
1 Since 2010, the gap between homeowners' and renters' wealth has experienced an increase of 25%, with the average homeowner having almost $250,000 more wealth than the average renter. As the average price of homes continues to rise and homes continue to appreciate in value, the gap between homeowners' and renters' wealth will continue to increase.2



>> Poor housing quality is associated with higher baseline symptoms of anxiety, depression, and aggression in children from elementary school through young adulthood. It is also associated with a variety of negative health outcomes, including asthma and cardiovascular disease risk factors.3

>> Cost-burdened households frequently prioritize housing costs over health care expenses, such as doctor’s visits and vital medications, and are often forced to choose living conditions that are more cost-effective, but more detrimental to their health and well-being.4 Households living in quality affordable housing are able to dedicate as much as 5 times as much on health care, 3 times more on food, and 2 times as much on planning for retirement.5

>> Renter households with children are more likely to have asthma triggers in their homes than owner households, and are more likely to have at least one child with asthma.6



>> For low-income families, housing affordability is associated with greater spending on child enrichment. It also reduces children's residential instability, which has been associated with increased educational attainment and increased earnings in adulthood.7

>> All other things being equal, children of homeowners do better in school (scoring higher on test scores and lower on anti-social behaviors), and have lower crime and drug usage rates.8

Woman measuring framing stud

Chicago Star
The Gendered Roadblocks
Here's why it's harder for women to become homeowners:

Unequal Pay and Uneven Care Responsibilities

>> Women are estimated to make 82 cents for every dollar a man makes in the United States in 2022.9 There is not a state in the United States where women have an average higher salary than men and the median income of households headed by women is almost $20,000 lower than those headed by men.10

>> In 2022, the wage gap in Illinois between men and women workers is $11,046, higher than the national average of $10,381. This 18.1% difference between the earnings of men and women working in year-round, full-time positions is reflective of the wealth disparities between men and women in the labor market and many other systemic barriers.11

>> As of 2021, 79.5% of single-parent households in the United States are headed by women.12 Similarly, women are significantly more likely to take on the vast majority of unpaid household and care work, such as primary child and elder care, in addition to their jobs and paid labor.13 These uneven caregiving responsibilities prevent women from equally investing their time and financial resources into homeownership. Additionally, women who return to the workforce often suffer a wage penalty that negatively impacts both opportunities for advancement and equal compensation for labor.14  


Higher Mortgage Denials and Mortgage Rates, Despite Superior Payment Performance

>> Due to factors like the gender pay gap, women tend to have higher debt-to-income ratios and worse credit profiles. Typical lenders do not take any offsetting factors into account and single women are thus denied mortgages at higher rates than single men, even though women are more reliable when it comes to paying their mortgages.15

>> >> Women, especially lower-income women and women of color, have historically been, and continue to be, targeted for subprime and predatory lending. In 49 of 50 states, women pay higher mortgage rates than men.16 When single women are awarded mortgages, they face significantly higher interest rates than single men because of their weaker credit profiles.17 


It's Even Harder for Black Women

>> Due to the history of racist practices in our nation, such as redlining, predatory lending, racial covenants, and other government programs, prospective Black homebuyers have had a harder time becoming homeowners.  

>> Wage and wealth gaps are considerably higher for Black women and women of color who are most likely to be paid less for the same jobs despite similar levels of education and experience.18 Black women also face discrimination in recruitment, hiring and promotion as well as occupational segregation and underrepresentation in higher-paid positions where, even when occupying a similar job, Black women earn 67.6% of the income of white men.19

>> In 2019, the median wealth of a single white man under the age of 35 ($22,640) was 3.5 times greater than that of single white women ($6,370) and 224 times greater than that of single Black women ($101).20 

>> Single white women without a college degree have $3,000 more in median wealth than single Black women with a college degree. Single white women with a bachelor’s degree have seven times the wealth of their black counterparts, $35,000 and $5,000 in median wealth, respectively. One reason for the wealth gap among college educated single women is that Black women have the highest level of student debt due to racial wealth and income gaps and struggle to pay off the debt in early adulthood despite working full-time.21 

>> While single white mothers have a median wealth of $3,000, single Black mothers experience the largest wealth disadvantage with a median wealth of zero; at least half of Black single mothers had no wealth or had debts greater than the value of their assets. Black households have been shut out of wealth opportunities over several generations due to discrimination and lack of investment by policymakers.22 


Woman holding roof trusses steady, looking off camera

Chicago Star
Negative Impacts of the Covid-19 Pandemic

>> Negative social impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic continue to be disproportionately concentrated among women and marginalized communities. This is in part due to the lack of resources available to withstand the economic impacts, such as loss of income and lack of renters and mortgage assistance, of the pandemic. 

>> Since home and childcare duties unevenly fall onto the shoulders of women, the move to remote schooling forced many women to leave the workforce, which could threaten to slow or reverse the positive trajectory of female homeownership.23

>> Women's employment has also been impacted due to the pandemic. Women are at a greater risk because many are employed in industries that have been hit hard, such as service and hospitality.23 In 2020 alone, women around the globe lost over 64 million jobs, costing women at least $800 billion in global earnings.24 As 1 in 3 Black women are employed in front-line jobs, Black women have experienced a high rate of unemployment and faced disproportionate risk of exposure to COVID-19 throughout the course of the pandemic.25

Woman listening intently to instructions off camera

Chicago Star

Despite all of these hurdles, single women are outpacing single men when it comes to homeownership.

>> On average, as of March 2021, single women own 1.6 million more homes in 50 of the largest metros in the U.S. Overall, single women own 5.2 million homes while single men own roughly 3.6 million homes and there is not a single metro among the list of 50 largest metros where single male homeownership outnumbers female homeownership.26

>> As of March 2021, 313,281 homes in Chicago are owned by single women (13.82%), while 209,400 homes are owned by single men (9.24%).26

Habitat Homeowner Denae Poses with Her Son before Moving into New Home

Chicago Star
The Role of Women Build

Together, as a community of 550+ women strong, we will:

>> Help more women become owners of stable, quality, and affordable homes.

>> Help more women grow their wealth and independence.

>> Help more women build futures of opportunity for their children.

>> Help move the needle on the gender wealth gap.



1., page 5.
4.;, pg 6.
5., pg 4.
16. ;
20. vulnerable/#:~:text=The%20median%20wealth%20of%20single,single%20Black%20women%20(%24101).